Why Equating Negative Reviews With Cyber-Bullying is WRONG

Posted August 9, 2013 by Stormy in Books / 36 Comments

Is it just me, or has there been quite a lot of drama in the blogosphere lately? I know these things tend to go in cycles, and I’m daily reminded of reasons why I LOVE the book blogging community, but all the drama can get overwhelming. It can also be scary as a blogger–clearly, this can happen to anyone. ANYONE can choose to fight you over a review. As much as we like to do things to ward ourselves against it, sometimes these things happen to people who have done nothing to incite it, except apparently have their own opinion of a book. It’s frustrating, but it points to a bigger problem.

I typically try and stay away from controversial post like this, because while I think they’re totally fair game as a blogger, it’s just never been what my focus has been. I like making fun post about what TV characters would read if they read YA, or why you should take a chance on a classic. I hardly ever post my potentially controversial post, because it just hasn’t been worth it in the past to me. But this one is, because it’s something I care very deeply about.

Because after a point of contention, a reviewer might be accused of being a bit, well, mean. And sometimes, they’re even called a cyber-bully by either an author or a fan. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of authors who treat bloggers and reviewers with respect, but they can’t control their fans behavior. There are authors, though, however, who pull the bully card over reviews. Now, I have seen reviewers PERSONALLY attack authors. I have. I know it’s possible, and it does happen, however rare. That is different. What I am talking about today is when reviewers are called bullies just because they reviewed a book in a negative, perhaps “harsh” way. This isn’t about any incident in particular, but I feel like I have seen an increase in this lately, and it needs to be talked about. It can’t just be the elephant in the room. 

Repeat after me: Equating Negative Reviews with Cyber-bullying is WRONG. And I don’t mean just in the factual sense. it is morally reprehensible. It is a BAD thing to do. Because what happens when you accuse someone of cyber-bullying when all they were doing was reviewing a product?

You dilute what cyber-bullying really is. This is not a matter of disagreeing with someone over your book. This is not a matter of you thinking a reviewer is mean or harsh. They very well be mean or harsh to your book, and they have every right to be. You may not agree with it. You have the right to disagree(but publicly fighting & disagreeing is not a good idea because they have every right to not like your book, the product that they spent time reading and may have even purchased). But when you point a finger towards a reviewer and rouse others with the cry of “Cyber-bully”, you take away from those who really are victims of online bullying.

 Cyber-bullying is:

A girl who commits to suicide because she was assaulted and photos of it were posted online. (source)

An 18-year-old boy who jumps off a bridge after his privacy of his sexual encounters was violated and posted online. (source)

A Junior high(Junior high!) student who commits suicide after PERSONAL cruel comments were left on her MySpace page. (source)

A Bad Review is NOT Cyber-bullying. Period.

See the difference between those cyber-bullying case and a negative, even SNARKY review? Because it’s there & it’s big. See the difference between an 18-year-old who has privacy violated by having his sexual encounters recorded without his consent and then having that spread around the internet and you putting your book out to the public and your book being disliked, maybe even hated?

You knew what you were doing when you released a book into the world. No one who has a book published thinks their book will be universally loved. It’s inevitable. A book is art, yes, but it is also a product. People may hate it. People may be “mean” about it. People may think your PRODUCT is trash, and they may even say it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read. We can debate the merit of reviews and such all day, but a review like that is not cyber-bullying. It’s just not, nor will it ever be.

You may wish people would be nicer towards your work. I get it. But at no point do those comments equal cyber-bullying. Pointing the finger at a reviewer and screaming “Bully!” when all they have done is reviewed your work, the work that YOU released to the public, either by yourself or through a traditional publisher, is detrimental to the online community. It distracts from what real cyber-bullying cases are. These reviews are not about you, they are about your work. Even if you take them personally, even if they make you emotional, they are not about you. They are not personal attacks. Every once in a while, personal attacks do occur, but on a more rarer basis than negative reviews do. Still unsure? You should check out this infographic from Oh Chrys!  It does a fantastic job of showing the difference between a bad review and a bullying attack.

I care about cyber-bullying a lot because I care about bullying a lot. I’ve been there. I was the kid who went home from school every day crying. And I’ve also had my work criticized. Sometimes it was harsh and that made me cry too, but at no point were the two circumstances ever the same. Ever. So please, stop equating negative reviews with cyber-bullying. It’s shameful to those who have been victims of cyber-bullying, and it distracts everyone from what the review is about in the first place: the author’s work, not the author.

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36 responses to “Why Equating Negative Reviews With Cyber-Bullying is WRONG

  1. Book Nerd Reviews

    […] from Book.Blog.Bake told us that negative book reviews does not equate to cyber bullying. Amen! […]

  2. You make a very valuable non-compasison point. I whole-heartedly agree, writing a negative review is NOT the same as cyber bullying. It shouldn’t even be put in the same category. Authors should understand when they write a book not everyone is going to like it. Just like when a photographer takes a photo, to some its just the most drop dead gorgeous image they’ve ever seen an to others it just may be “meh”. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. We live in America where we are blessed to have free speech, the right to express our feelings. If a blogger doesn’t like a book, he/she should not fear writing a negative review. That being said, I do have to bring up that writing a negative review should be done in a very tasteful and professional way. It would be nice, if everyone could follow the golden rule – evenn when writing negative review. If this were to happen, I doubt we’d have any more negative review drama. Great post!

  3. This is an amazing post, Stormy, and I think you’ve said it better than anyone else. At the end of the day, it’s just a book. It’s a thing. It has no feelings, it’s temporary, and in a few months everyone will forget about this or that negative review. I think authors take these things personally because they put so much of themselves in their books, but at the same time, they did agree to put it out there. I haven’t heard of a single artist or designer scream bully because someone hated their work of art either. That’s just ridiculous! It’s a matter of taste! People need to stop taking things so personally and move on.

    • stormydawnc

      Exactly! And good point about other artists or designers–I can just imagine how the world would ROLL their eyes at a designer who claimed a bad review was bullying.

  4. Christine @ Oh, Chrys!

    I was so upset about the recent accusations of bullying going around the blogosphere that I just could not really say what I wanted to in words. Thanks for doing such a great job at it, and for sharing your personal experiences with us. It is an offense to all those who have been bullied in the past whenever that idiotic notion is applied. I am sorry you had to endure bullying, and I hope authors can give more thought to that powerful, hostile word. So much hearts for this post!

    • stormydawnc

      Thanks Christine! And I’m glad I was able to link to your infographic in this post. If nothing else, I feel all the recent accusations are making way for some important conversations.

  5. BRILLIANT post here, Stormy. I am so, so glad you decided to write it. I’m the same way — I’ll do discussion topics, but usually mine are more along the fun side, or a bit serious but usually not controversial. I was biting my nails when I wrote my DNF review post because I was so scared that people were going to be upset with my opinions, but anyway… I digress. Sorry haha.
    I just get sad seeing such negativity in the blogosphere because I think almost all (with that one wild random factor in there) of us decided to start blogging because it was FUN. We didn’t intend to deal with drama and of course you knew when you started reviewing books that there would be negative reviews in there. People calling negative reviews is absolutely NOT cyber bulling. You’re right. In fact, singling people out just because they wrote a negative review and slandering their name all over the internet is actually closer to cyber bulling than what the reviewer did. A bit ironic, no?
    The sad thing is, I actually censor my negative reviews SO MUCH to avoid any of this kind of controversy and I feel like I’m not saying all the things I want to say. It’s not like I’m tweeting the author or pub when I write a negative review, but at the same time I’m like WHAT IF THEY SEE IT. I don’t want to upset them!!! But I also have a code in which I personally stated that I will review every book I read because that’s just how I wanted to run my blog. Negative reviews will happen. I should still be allowed to say what I want to say. I never mean to attack an author but yes, sometimes I will say that I didn’t like how they wrote this, or something else seemed stereotypical. Authors are free to write whatever they want and bloggers are free to write whatever they want as well.
    I think what it comes down to is just respect. You said it perfectly — Authors write books. Books are both a product and an art so they need to know that from both angles, not everyone will like their work. I know you want everyone to love it (which is why I may never write a book) but you have to take the good with the bad. Everyone hate your book? Maybe it’s time to work on a different style, come up with a new idea, do something different. Don’t want to change? Maybe it was the wrong target audience. There will always be people out there who love it and people out there who hate it but I think no matter who you are — author, reviewer, commenter — If you put content OUT THERE SOMEWHERE, you just have to be prepared that someone somewhere may disagree!

    • stormydawnc

      You totally got at another point I wanted to make but shied away from–slandering a reviewer’s name all over the internet because of a bad review definitely is closer to bullying(Depending on how it’s done. I’ve seen some authors call out negative reviews in a way I think was very disrespectful and bad publicity on their part, but not bullying. Then I’ve also seen some who have legitimately PERSONALLY attacked a blogger, and that IS bullying). And yes, most of us started blogging for fun–because we like it! And writers write because they WANT to(most of them, I assume), and not everyone is going to like their product.

  6. Eve

    I agree with everything you said. It’s so frustrating when an author calls a snarky review “bullying”. Maybe they should have looked up the meaning of the word online before using it. Authors picking fights with bloggers never ends well for the author. You’re right that when they use the phrase “cyber-bullying” they’re pretty much disrespecting all those who have truly been cyber-bullied. Seriously, comparing a negative review to your privacy being violated and posted online? It’s ridiculous…

    That’s a great post! People should address issues like that more often so authors who think they’re being bullied would finally notice them and get it together.

    • stormydawnc

      Thank you! And that’s my main issue and why I chose to post–is because it really takes away from REAL cyber-bullying. If it was authors just COMPLAINING about bad reviews, then I probably wouldn’t have posted this(even if I wouldn’t have liked it), but there’s a big difference between cyber-bullying and a bad review.

  7. Very interesting post! I agree with you… a negative review is not cyber bullying. In most cases… the negative reviews I’ve seen, though negative, are still respectful of the author. Most authors want to know what people think of their books…. when you put your book out there you have to expect some criticism. It’s bound to happen… and in reality… if it is a decent book, for every negative review, there will probably be 10 positive ones! Not every single person on the planet is going to love it. As a blogger, I want to be honest. I will not sugar coat a review even if the author is the one that gave me the book.

    • stormydawnc

      Exactly! And authors HAVE to know that not everyone will like their book. There are people who hate even the most popular books, and they have every right to do so!

  8. Book Bloggery Week-in-Review (20)

    […] Stormy explained why equating negative reviews with cyber bullying is WRONG. […]

  9. I agree… although, I think this is more of a problem with rabid fans than with the authors themselves. I don’t know why some fans take some random stranger’s dislike of a book so personally.

    • stormydawnc

      Hmm, yeah, there definitely is a much bigger fan reaction. I think it just sometimes seem a bigger deal when a creator tries to defend their work, because they can control their own actions, whereas they can’t really control what their fans do. Good point!

  10. Bookish Recap: August 4th – 10th | A Bookish Heart

    […] Stormy also explains why equating negative reviews with cyber-bullying is wrong. […]

  11. I completely agree. This is a very important distinction to make. The reviewer can be as mean and hurtful and tactless towards the book, but the book review is nothing but a book review. Perhaps you can say it’s not a very good review or that they handled their emotions about the book poorly, but it’s by no means bullying. You’re also right how it lessens the perception of real cyber bullying if people equate it to a book review and that is simply not okay. Great post. Controversial or not, people need to read this.

    • stormydawnc

      Thank you! And I think personally not liking a review is fair game(though if you’re an author probably a bad idea to say anything about it), but it’s NOT bullying. It’s just NOT. There’s such a real difference between cyber-bullying and a negative, snarky review, and when people can’t tell the differences it makes me INCREDIBLY sad, because it lessens real cyber-bullying, which is something that needs to be fought at all cost.

  12. Well Said! I actually just wrote my first DNF review the other day although I haven’t posted it yet. This will be the first DNF review on my blog because for a long time I was kind of scared to post any negative reviews. But I figure, it’s my blog and I can post what I want, whether it’s a positive or a DNF review. Thank you for having the courage to post about such a strong topic 😀

    • stormydawnc

      I don’t DNF very often, but I remember writing my first DNF review and being slightly TERRIFIED of posting it. Which is why I think this distinction is so important!

  13. I agree so much. If people think that a negative review is bullying, they do not understand bullying in the slightest. Bullying is specifically meant to harm and hurt someone. Reviews are (usually) just honest opinions. Unless the reviewer set out to intentionally hurt the author, it’s not bullying. It’s frustrating to see so many people misunderstand and mislabel things because their feelings are hurt. Great post on a tough topic.

    • stormydawnc

      Exactly! And I know criticism CAN hurt, but there’s a difference in the INTENT behind criticism and bullying, and it’s a big one.

  14. This is absolutely a perfect post, Stormy, and I’m SO GLAD you had the courage to post it. This is an important point that needs to be thrown out there into the publishing world. Just brilliant. Thank you!

  15. Hear, hear! I completely agree. It’s one thing if a reviewer attacks the author personally for some reason–that is uncalled for. But giving a negative review of their work is NOT bullying. Like you said, once their work is out in the world, it’s fair game for critics…that’s what writing is all about. And sometimes I feel like book bloggers get labeled as cyber-bullies, while “upscale” reviewers (like those for newspapers, magazines, etc) would never be labeled as such for a bad review. A reader is a reader, and an honest review is going to call it like it is.

    • stormydawnc

      Thanks for your comment! And yes, no one would call a reviewer for a newspaper a bully. And if people think that professional critics aren’t some times just as scathing as online reviewers, they could go and read an Ebert review. Critics are allowed to have strong opinions, and the ones who are employed and the ones that might fall under the term “blogger” instead of critic are no different.

  16. Wonderful post, Stormy! It’s so easy for people to hide behind the Internet, and since this is so often abused, sometimes people get it in their head that EVERYTHING that hurts their feelings is cyber-bullying. It’s a 6:00-news-buzzword.

    You’ve really put your finger on the crux of the matter though: authors put their books out in public. It’s more than art; it’s a product, and some people will love it while some people will hate it. People that hate it might (in this case) blog about it with considerable snark, and you’ve got to put your big kid pants on and GET OVER IT. It’s one of the biggest things they pound into you in business school: an unhappy customer will tell at least 10 other people about a bad experience, while a happy customer might not tell anyone. You’ve got to pick your battles, damage control if you need to, but you never argue with the customer (unless your safety is threatened – then you call the cops and let them argue for you).

    • stormydawnc

      Thank you! And you’re right–cyber-bullying definitely is a buzzword. And while I do LOVE that books are art as well as products, no author, however they’re published, can debate the fact that they’re putting a product on the market for consumers.

  17. Asti (A Bookish Heart)

    Yes! I’m like you, I usually try to stay out of controversial areas in the blogosphere and leave my posts to things I feel comfortable saying. But, it’s gotten ridiculous lately to the point where I’ll watch a thread with this drama and have to work really hard not to get involved. Part of me just wants to shake people and tell them to use their brains, but the other part of me says there is no use in trying because they’ll only add me to their attacks and I’ll get worked up. But it is just SO crazy. No one is safe when it comes to this, and that sucks because I think it contributes to the book blogging slumps that go around.

    So yes yes yes. If someone posts a negative review just stating their opinions about a book, it is not cyber-bullying. It’s okay if one disagrees with that said opinion, but don’t attack the person about it. Just move on and write your own positive review. Saying something to the person who wrote the review WILL NOT change their opinion, ever. I think at some point everyone just has to agree to disagree, and leave each other alone.

    (Sorry for rambling)

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